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Workplace Trends: Designing for Pets in the Workplace


Pet-friendly workplaces are becoming more common, and many businesses are considering adopting this trend to promote employee engagement. Pets have been known to promote happiness and reduce stress. Studies on dogs in the workplace conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University found lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of those who had their pets at work. As a point of common interest, pets may bring diverse workplaces closer together.  What are the design issues surrounding pets in the workplace?

Limit Liability

This trend is most appropriate for workspaces that do not have public or retail interactions, or significant foot traffic. Both of these issues can raise liability risks beyond what is reasonable and may present a public safety concern. Health guidelines will preclude allowing pets in a workplace when food is being prepared. For workspaces without retail work or significant public traffic, some pets can be brought to work with a few reasonable guidelines.

Get Some Input

Before beginning a pet policy, hold discussions or focus groups with employees to evaluate any cultural or health concerns. A reasonable majority can decide on either dogs or cats, but the risks of mixing exotics, birds, and other pets with dogs and cats is significant. Most workplaces with successful pet policies allow dogs only.

Factors for Success

Dogs need outdoor spaces for exercise and hygiene, and these walking paths or other outdoor spaces should be quickly accessible to employees with dogs. An indoor play space may also be successful. In addition, an office with a door or other individual workspace might be a reasonable standard for keeping a pet, rather than open, multi-use spaces. Some workplaces will suggest limits of weight or breed. Behavior should also be addressed, as biting, fighting, and barking can disrupt work. Consider the presence of hazardous machinery and toxic materials in some areas before making plans to allow pets. Having pets in work vehicles can also be considered, with adequate detailing.

Dogs in the workplace have been known to promote happiness and employee engagement and reduce stress. Proper planning and design can help implement a successful workplace pet policy.

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